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Month: July 2011

Kitting out su casa

Kitting out su casa

Some purchases from A loja do gato preto

When moving to Madrid, it’s impossible to bring everything you need for your new home along with you plus it’s fun to mix things up a bit for each new place.  When looking for home supplies and decorations, it’s easy to hit up one of the many Cortes Ingles mega-markets for a one-stop shopping experience; however, there are lots of great home stores scattered around Madrid.  I recently found a few in the Salamanca barrio and the prices are great at the moment during the season of rebajas!

A loja do gato preto was a wonderful find during a stroll one afternoon down c/ Velázquez.  They have a wide selection of home decorations and are a great choice if you like bright colours.  I saw some yellow, blue and purple buddha statues, intricately painted lanterns and a wide selection of photo frames.  They also have useful but good-looking tools like dishracks, spoon holders and trivets and quirky japanese geisha soap dispensers.  The prices are right too … I snagged a couple of medium bowls for €2.50 and placemats for just €1.90 each (the bright buddha heads were €24.90 and I was really tempted!).  I will definitely be going back to and will try my best not to buy everything in the shop!

Just around the corner on Calle de Hermosilla (just a block north of the Serrano metro stop) are some other well-known shops such as Habitat, which sells contemporary furnishings and decorations.  They had a wonderful display setup downstairs with ideas for your outdoor space … I love the orange folding chairs, they would be perfect for a little Madrid terraza!  Continue a bit further down the road and you will find outposts of Zara Home and Zara Home – Kids.  A slightly cheaper option is Butlers who had a wide selection of games and kid-friendly decorations along with a wide selection of nautical themed decor … perfect for decorating a beach house!

It’s exciting moving into a new home and I am pleased to find such fun shops here in Madrid!

A loja do gato preto: C/ Velázquez, 24 – 28001 Madrid / 34 91 577 16 07

Habitat: C/ Hermosilla, 18 – 28001 Madrid / 911812600 OR Paseo de la Castellana 79 – 28046 Madrid / 917 705 442

Zara Home & Zara Home Kids: C/ Hermosilla, 16 – 28001 Madrid / +34 915776445 (check their website for other locations)

Butlers: Calle de Hermosilla, 13, 28001 Madrid

Casa de Granada: a secret spot in the middle of Madrid

Casa de Granada: a secret spot in the middle of Madrid

I remember the first time I went to the restaurant Casa de Granada – I didn’t actually know where I was going, or that I was going to a restaurant at all for that matter.

Just a few blocks off Puerta del Sol, I arrived at the front door of what appeared to be any other apartment building. My friend rang the telefonillo, and then someone buzzed us in without even asking who we were. Was my amigo secretly a criminal and leading me into some shady residence? Was I about to be kidnapped?

No. Nothing of the sort.

Six floors up, the doors opened. Instantly, I felt like I was in a scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – except the wardrobe was an elevator, and Narnia was, well, a Spanish cafetería. Before me, the most typical of Spanish restaurants – tiled floor, a tapas-filled bar, a token television – bordered by a balcony on two sides with an expansive southern view of the city.

Stepping out onto the narrow one-table-wide terraza, other patrons made way so that I could squeeze through to an open table. With limited space outside, the best way to get one of those much-coveted seats is to wait your turn, or do as I do – arrive after the lunch crowd has passed, tómate un café, and soak up the afternoon sun.

While the standard Spanish fare was nothing to write home about, the view of the town below, as well as into people’s pisos (hehe) more than made up for it. Really, just the combination of an apartment, cafetería, and sixth-floor sight seeing, make the semi-secret spot worth a visit.

I haven’t the slightest clue how this joint is legal, but if their neighbors are OK with it, then I suppose so am I *puts binoculars away*. In other news, I’m seriously contemplating turning my own piso into some sort of cupcake and peanut butter café.

Casa de Granada
C/ Doctor Cortezo 17, 6th floor
913 693 596

Wine Tasting in Madrid

Wine Tasting in Madrid

You do not have to live in Spain to know that this country has some great wine, as Courtney pointed out a few months ago.   From Rioja to Rueda to Ribera del Duero you can find something to complement almost any meal beautifully.  I am not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination but Raul and I really enjoy trying the different varieties of Spanish vino and continually finding new favorites. Wine Tasting in Madrid is more than a national sport!!

Luckily for me we recently discovered Reserva y Cata, a small wine shop/liquor store in our neighborhood  in Madrid that offers a variety of events on a regular basis that have allowed us to indulge this new diversion.   Approximately three to four evenings per month the store offers some sort of alcohol-related course or tasting.  These events are usually wine-based, but I have also seen a gin & tonic as well as a whiskey tasting since I have been following the calendar.   

We signed up for the email list so we would know about the courses as soon as they were announced (you can also find a listing on the website under “Eventos y Cursos”.)  The events are very popular and only hold about 17 people, so you have to sign up quickly if you want in. Over the past few months we went to a tasting of Spanish wine and French cheese (there is no adjective strong enough to sufficiently describe how much I enjoyed this combination), Spanish wine and Spanish cheese (a match made in heaven) and gin & tonic (muy de moda in Spain these days).

Not only did we learn how to pair everything to achieve the optimal taste from both, we also had the chance to meet other people and have a great time in the process.  If you have a passion or even an interest in Spanish wine, I would highly recommend an evening at Reserva y Cata.

Reserva y Cata

Conde de Xiquena, 13

Metro: Chueca, Colon, or Alonso Martinez

Weekend In Ibiza

Weekend In Ibiza

When moving to Spain, lots of friends may ask you about coming to visit Madrid and taking a side Weekend in Ibiza.  Located in the Balearic islands off the east coast of Spain, the island is legendary for it’s party atmosphere and club scene during the summer months.  Popular with people of all ages and nationalities, a visit to this sunny isle might leave you exhausted, but it will be a trip you won’t forget!

I recently took the 45 minute flight on Easy Jet to celebrate the final single days of a good friend (another budget airline option is RyanAir).  As you can imagine, with 11 girls trying to cram in as much sun and fun as possible, we hit a lot of beaches, bars and clubs in our 5 day stay.  Salinas beach was one of our first stops which, while famous and beautiful, was very crowded and we subsequently thought it easier to stay on the Figueretas beach near our apartments.  This also made for an easy walk to some great bars and restaurants.

Some of the best tapas I have had in Spain came from Home Loos, a small restaurant in Figueretas run by a very friendly and helpful Dutchman.  Given our large group, he suggested bringing out a selection of dishes and we happily tucked into a wide variety of dishes that included piripiri prawns, meatballs, grilled veggies, cuttlefish and patatas bravas.  The food was delicious and a welcome respite from some of the cheesy and overpriced spots that line the beach.  For a more upscale dining experience, both Aura and KM5 delivered excellent food with a great atmosphere.  At Aura, we ate in a beautiful and very private garden … a lot of girls wished their partners were along!  Some favorite dishes included slow-roasted lamb and chargrilled squid.  After dinner, we headed inside for a few drinks and a little dancing inside the small club.  KM5 provided a more extensive after-dinner experience, with several areas reserved for groups with large couches and tents as well as a separate dance floor and multiple bars.  They also had a live singer on staff who was truly amazing!   The food and service were also excellent during our meal.  The menu included a large selection of Argentinian beef; however, my sea bass and tastes of the roast lamb were delicious!

A good spot for a bite along the beach is the newly renovated Ushuaia beach hotel.  With long tables beach-side, a DJ pumping out a bit of techno and plenty of sun, it’s a great spot for hanging out for a few cocktails during the afternoon.  I also heard that their parties on Sunday are a lot of fun with a big stage setup poolside, but unfortunately we were too busy checking out another of the islands legendary events.  Sundays at Space, one of the islands mega-clubs, are well-known and the club is packed from afternoon until early morning with partygoers from all over the world.  It’s an anything-goes environment where people wear everything from bikinis to stilletos.  The dancing moves from room to room as the night progresses and you also have the option of chilling out on the terrace for a bit of fresh air.  Be prepared to boogie and to be out all night!  Other club options include Pacha (related to the one right here in Madrid) and Amnesia.  It’s impossible to miss the promos plastered all over the island advertising what DJs will be there during your visit.

Ibiza has lots of options available for you to create your own special holiday.  A trip like mine definitely requires a lot of sleep beforehand, some comfortable dancing shoes and maybe a few pairs of funny sunglasses (what’s a bachelorette party without a little dressup??).  If you prefer a calmer weekend, check out Jodie’s post (Quiet) Weekend In: Ibiza. Safe travels!


Aura: Ctra San Juan km 13.5, San Lorec, Ibiza / +34 971 32 53 56 /

KM5: Ctr Sant Josep km 5.6, Ibiza / +34 971 396 349 / +34 696 255 100 /

Ushuaia: Carretera Playa d’en Bossa 10, 07817 Ibiza / +34 971 39 67 10

Space: Playa d’en Bossa s/n 07817 Sant Josep de Sa Talaia, Ibiza / +34 971 396 793

Pacha: Avinguda del Vuit d’Agost, 07800, Ibiza / +34 971 31 36 00

Spanish fascinator envy

Spanish fascinator envy

Have you ever been to a Spanish wedding? If so, have you ever found yourself crazy jealous of the ladies’ ultra fancy attire and headpieces? I have. So after living in Madrid for three and a half years and attending several Spanish bodas, I finally purchased myself a floor-length gown. But that snazzy headpiece has still been eluding me, so recently I decided to put an end to my ongoing envy.

During my hunt for the perfect fascinator in Madrid, I came across the hat designer Mamita Linda. I headed off to the “shop” expecting to join other customers while perusing a selection of soon-to-be-mine tocados. Instead, I found myself ringing the timbre of an apartment building near Nuevos Ministerios. Used to Spanish surprises, I rolled with it, passing through the gate, following the Mamita Linda signs up the stairs, around the corner and up an elevator.

Arriving at a door, I knew I was in the right place (or was I?). Before I had time to second guess myself, I was sitting in front of a table of flashy hats, trying them on, and feeling extra Spanish (or perhaps British? I’m thinking I could give Kate Middleton a run for her money at this point).

The designer, Mónica, a darling miniature lady, explained to me at length her labor of love. A former artist, she sells ready-made hats, but also makes custom creations within days. Soon, clients will even be able to rent the flamboyant headpieces (within Spain only).

And did you know that there’s an etiquette to this whole hat-wearing business? Indeed there is. The pamelas (broad-brimmed hats) are for daytime wear, while the tocados (smaller cocktail hats) are for the evening. Regardless of which one you sport, they are not to come off at any time (not a problem for me – you’d have to pry those sweet little numbers off my head).

You can be certain that I’ll be heading back to see Mónica soon, floor-length dress in hand, to finally complete my ultra-Spanish wedding-guest look.

If you too are hankering for your very own Spanish fascinator, be sure to consult shop hours below, or check out the website.

Tocados Madrid Mamita Linda
Joaquin Costa 15
915 634 512
September-November: 12:00-14:00 and 16:00-20:00, Monday-Friday
December-February: by appointment only
March-July: 12:00-14:00 and 16:00-20:00, Monday-Friday
Closed in August